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Storytelling: The art of making reporting matter

November 22 - 2023

Email Marketing Content 5 min read

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Great stories stick with us.

Whether it’s your favourite childhood fairytale, a haunting urban legend, or the latest crime documentary. A good story has the power to keep listeners hooked, hanging on your every word. 

In our opinion, there is no better way to communicate the sometimes drier side of marketing, data, numbers, and statistics, than through storytelling.

Storytelling is an essential component of modern marketing reporting. It's the key to translating email marketing metrics into actionable insights which resonate with the wider business. Bridging that gap from data, to insights, and to the "so what?" factor.

In this blog post, we will cover 5 steps to mastering the art of storytelling, to make your reports really matter. 

Obtain buy-in

Build credibility

Present engaging insights

Offer actionable optimisation

Utilise the right tools

Take a visual approach

Next steps

Obtain buy-in

Reporting told with credible data and in an engaging format, why would you need buy-in for that?

Telling a story through reporting requires input from different departments, can have implications on the wider business, and may mean a change in reporting processes for those involved.

So, to ensure your reporting is received as positively as possible, here are some tips for obtaining buy-in:

Understand your audience

Identify who you are presenting to and the stakeholders involved. What are their goals, KPIs, and challenges? By doing so you can ensure that your story resonates directly with them, and no one feels unaccounted for when covering the report.

Demonstrate value

Whilst some may love the idea of your reporting, others may ask “what’s in it for me?”. By demonstrating the value of your reporting style, those involved will understand why you are taking this approach. And even better, how they benefit. 

Communicate regularly

Regular communication helps everyone to feel involved, encourages ownership, and allows concerns to be addressed head-on. 

By communicating at every stage of your reporting process, from gathering data via different systems to presenting to different departments, there will be no unwelcome surprises in the future. Different departments will also benefit from access to this information to learn from, be informed by, and appreciate the value of.

Empower advocates

Advocates for your reporting are worth their weight in gold. Engage those who are particularly excited and/or are particularly influential within the business, and encourage them to spread positivity in meetings, communications, and over water-cooler chats.

Build credibility

Data serves as the backbone of storytelling through reporting. It not only allows for insights to be gathered but also ensures that your story is credible; backed by solid data and facts. 

Your wider business offers a wealth of relevant data. Obvious sources are your email marketing analytics tools, which offer insight into open and click-through rates, behaviour via heatmaps, and website traffic driven by email. 

But consider other platforms such as your CRM, ERP (enterprise resource planning) systems, and finance systems. These can offer further insight into recipients’ behaviour post open and click; how much these recipients spend, the products and services they are most interested in, and how often they request support. 

As well as building credibility, by utilising data from multiple sources you can ensure your story is more relatable and engaging for different departments. 

Present engaging insights

Great, you’ve bought in even the most sceptical of your audience with the use of data and hard facts. 

But what does it all mean? And why does it matter?

Providing insights in your reporting story is not simply about facts or figures. Instead, insights are the result of careful analysis and interpretation of data. Think of them as the "aha" moments that come when we make a connection or see a pattern.

Once you have gathered relevant data, begin looking for trends and patterns. Ask questions, compare different data sets, and challenge your own assumptions. This may take some time but is an essential step.

And don’t forget to connect your insights to wider business goals. Identify how your findings impact other departments, and build these into your story.

Offer actionable optimisation

By now you’ve told the story of your results and provided insights into what they actually mean.

But some may be asking “what do we do now?”

Actions within your reporting story are essential not only to guide your team but also to satisfy senior management who will want to see optimisation based on your findings. 

The result is that you can provide your audience with a clear, actionable story, which will look a little like the below:

Of course, actions will be specific to your results, business, and resource. However, utilising a tried and tested framework is always useful. One we recommend was developed by Dave McClure, and is affectionately known as Pirate Metrics.

This framework is broken down into 5 areas that represent customer buying stages (also known as AARRR - get the pirate reference?):

  • Acquisition - how do users find you?
  • Activation - do users have a great first experience?
  • Retention - do users come back?
  • Revenue - how do you make money?
  • Referral - do users tell others?

When broken down, these stages can be analysed, monitored, and then optimised. Providing structured actions that align with each stage of the customer journey.

Utilise the right tools

Of course, none of the above is possible without utilising the best tools to measure, consolidate, and support your storytelling efforts.

Here are some key resources:

Email platforms

Your email platform is the perfect place to start when creating a reporting story. Leading providers will not only monitor key email marketing metrics for your campaigns but also offer high-level data and reports that are already presented in a visual format.

Google Analytics

Google Analytics provides the perfect complement to your email platform, offering insight into how recipients engage with your website post-click. Including website traffic driven by email, and how engaged these website visitors are.

CRM systems

CRM systems offer more in-depth reporting into email recipients’ behaviour and purchases. By combining key systems all under one roof, marketers can connect the dots between email opens, website behaviour, leads generated, and overall engagement levels.

Take a visual approach

Of course, this data and insight can fall flat if you’re not presenting impactful reporting stories.

Taking a visual approach to data immediately enhances your storytelling. In the same way that many marketers use images and icons to convey a message more efficiently than words, the same can be said for data.

As well as graphs of varying formats, consider graphics, colour, iconography, and even video to engage your audience beyond the numbers.

Below is a great example from Oxfam Ireland which utilises maps, icons, photography, and colour to convey their data-led message

Next steps

We understand that email marketing is a complex and ever-changing field. So, if you're looking for support in presenting your email performance data through storytelling, in a way that will engage your whole business, then get in touch today.

Our team can help you gain a clear understanding of your email performance data whilst developing compelling stories that will engage your audience and communicate key insights from your data.

In turn, this improves communication and collaboration across your business, and ultimately enables clearer decision-making, leading to improved results.

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